Native vs Cross Platform App Development: Which One To Choose In 2018

4 min read

Young or old, everybody has a smartphone today. Because of that, mobile applications have become a total must for modern businesses.

Wait. There is a snafye to consider. It’s 2017 out there, and the market of mobile devices is insanely diverse. Dozens of new smartphones and tablets are released every month. As a result, both mobile developers and business owners are faced with an increasing number of challenges related to mobile applications. Spoiler alert: there is no magic bullet when it comes to choosing which platform to use. However, thanks to YouTeam post about mobile applications development companies, you can easily choose the best one for your project.

Each of the options has its own advantages and disadvantages. Being a business owner, you should have a solid understanding of the differences between them.

Advantages of native app development

Allow you to fully unlock the potential of mobile devices. The essence of native applications is that they’re written for a specific platform (today, it’s either Android or iOS). Ultimately, this means that mobile developers can provide much better integration of apps’ functionality with the hardware features of mobile devices: Bluetooth, NFC, GPS sensor, Camera, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope, etc. Access to these features is especially important for working with such data as the geographical location of the user or gestures.

Aspect ratio and display control. Using a native language gives you more freedom in terms of screen optimization. Today, there’s a limitless variety of smartphones and tablets with different screen sizes and aspect ratios. Earlier this year, Samsung has presented to the world Galaxy S8 and S8+ with their stunning bezel-less displays, making the 18:9 aspect ratio a new trend in the industry. In addition, mobile manufacturers are constantly pushing the bar of display quality by increasing the dpi on their devices. That’s why, it’s crucial as ever for businesses to make sure that their applications are displayed correctly.

Top-notch performance. Apart from this extended control and flexibility, better integration with the hardware of mobile devices provides another significant advantage. Native applications are blazing fast and perform noticeably better than, say, web applications.

According to Jakob Nielsen’s “Usability Engineering”, users note system delays that are as short as 1 second and if an action (e.g. updating the newsfeed) takes longer, they can become distracted.

Native applications fully utilize the processing power of mobile devices so their response time is minimized to the maximum extent possible.

Better distribution and monetization. What’s the first place that you go to when you want to download an app? Odds are, you’ll open the app store of your platform and start looking there. Mobile applications that are built using native programming languages is that they’re displayed in Google Play or App Store and get full support from the either of the market places once approved. This also makes it easier for your marketing team to promote your mobile application since users know exactly where to find it. Finally, the fact that native apps can be downloaded only through app stores benefits users in terms of security.

Internet connection isn’t a must. Since native applications are installed on the device itself, they allow you to access data in the offline mode. At the same time, web app or any other platform requires constant online connection, becoming dependent on the network speed. Combined with great performance, the ability to work offline makes native applications a perfect choice for developing mobile games.

Disadvantages of native app development

Cost of development. Native applications are more expensive in development than cross-platform and web applications. This is because you need to develop a separate application for each platform. Until recently, there were three of them: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. However, a you may have heard, Microsoft has officially stopped supporting Windows Phone, which means the platform will no longer receive software updates. Nonetheless, there are still two different platforms to be supported.

Intercompatibility with other mobile OS. Native apps for iOS are developed using Swift or Objective-C and can be installed on iPhones or iPads only. Likewise, Android apps aren’t compatible with iOS because they’re built with Java or Kotlin. Another aspect that is worth mentioning is version compatibility. For example, because of a variety of Android versions, providing full support to all the app users becomes a real challenge.

Advantages of cross-platform app development

Reusable code base. Instead of writing several different applications, mobile developers can use the same code for all platforms. When you develop a native mobile application, e.g. for iOS, you need to use a specific stack of technologies to write a new piece of code for a feature. However, when you want to implement the same feature but on a different platform, you also need to use a stack of technologies that’s different to the first one. On the other hand, this isn’t the case with cross platform apps, where you can just implement a feature for one platform and it will work on the other ones. Such reusability is also an advantage when it comes to deployment.

Cost-effective. Developing an application that works across multiple platforms and uses the same codebase is very cost effective. To have your idea implemented as a cross platform application doesn’t require heavy investments in terms of resources. This is because you don’t need a dedicated team for each mobile OS. Thanks to a short learning curve and a unified stack of technologies, all platforms can be maintained by a single team.

Wider audience reach and marketing opportunities. Cross platform applications target multiple platforms. As a result, businesses can grow their user base much faster than compared to native apps. This is especially beneficial for small businesses. When you have an app released for both Android and iOS at the same time, it saves you much time and money as opposed to creating only one app for either of the platforms first. This also allows you to cover all the bases, because what has perfectly worked for iOS users, for example, may not be the best idea for Android.

The same UI and UX across all platforms. How your application performs is undoubtedly important. However, no less important is how the app looks like and feels. It may be challenging to keep the same UI and UX simply because there are two separate teams working on them. Using a single codebase allows cross platform applications maintain the same look and user experience across all platforms. When you’re developing native apps using different technologies.

Disadvantages of cross platform app development

Not as flexible as native apps. The fact that cross platform applications can be developed for both Android and iOS is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Why? When you need to implement some cool feature that is expected to work and be supported on all devices equally, there is a chance that cross platform technologies won’t be able to provide you with the same level of flexibility you can find in native programming languages. In other words, if you’re wondering whether the feature will work the same across all devices — it most likely will. Will it perform to the maximum, though? — Unfortunately, it won’t.

Performance isn’t the strongest side. Because cross platform applications have to give up a great deal of flexibility for the sake of wide support, they also lose in terms of performance compared to their native counterparts.

Submission to the app stores is a tricky process. The process of submitting your app to the app store and getting it authorized takes a relatively big period of time. What’s more, every update that you roll out after the first release also has to be authorized by the app store before it becomes available.

The Bottom Line

So, if you want to impress users with a lightning fast interface, rich functionality, and overall performance, native apps is what you need. In addition, you get better security and stability. The price for this is that you’ll most likely need to hire two dedicated teams for each platform. Small business may not be able to afford develop an application for both platforms.

Cross platform apps, on the other hand, can be developed for both iOS and Android, wherein the whole thing is a one-team job. Plus, cross platform apps are much easier in terms of maintenance and deployment, so you can spend more time and money on marketing and attracting new customers. However, their biggest disadvantage is lower performance, which may be especially crucial if you’re developing an application with features that require deep hardware integration.

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